Drone Registration Hurts Commercial Operators

Drone Registration by CASA Hurts Commercial Drone Operators

From 1st July 2019 CASA proposes to introduce a drone registration fee to own and operate a drone in Australia. For recreational drone users, registration will cost around $20.00 per year per person to operate drones within Australia. As a commercial operator who holds a ReOC (Remote Operator Certificate), this article has been written on behalf of commercial drone operators who have contacted me, highlighting their concerns and impact this will likely have on the commercial drone industry.

As I’ve mentioned in previous social posts, we don’t see an issue with the $20.00 registration. This includes a free short online course in drone safety for recreational flyers. Most recreational users will also have only one drone and the $20.00 per user seems feasible for drone hobbyists. Note: *$20 AUD per person – not $20 per drone.

The issue with the proposed drone registration for commercial operators

CASA has not determined a final fee structure; an indicative structure is as follows:
• Any commercial operation, including Excluded RPA operations, and those under a ReOC – between $100 to $160 per RPA per year

From CASA Survey (PP 1816US)

Since registering as a commercial drone operator, we’ve noticed agencies/government bodies love to take advantage by charging fees for no real added value.

As a holder of a (ReOC) Remote Operator Certificate, we have already paid for the following:

  • RePL Certification
  • ReOC Submission
  • ReOC Renewal
  • Liability Insurance
  • ISO and Accreditation Costs
  • Permits and Permissions
  • Local Government Fees
  • Planning Permits
  • Drone Insurance
  • Drone Training Requirements

The costs easily exceed $10K per year. (That’s $10K just for compliance – not including operating expenses).

Let’s put this in perspective. If a commercial drone operator holding a ReOC owns 10 drones, they will be charged an additional $1600 per year. In the US, under the FAA, commercial drone operators are charged $5.00 US per drone for 3 years. That’s around AUS $7 dollars. These pilots hold a Part 107, the equivalent of RePL in Australian standards.

Did you know commercial drone operators who hold a ReOC have already registered their drones with CASA?

This is a mandatory requirement under the Operations Manual that is submitted and audited by CASA. (SCHEDULE 1 – RPAS Operating Types and Nominated Personnel.) Each ReOC operator must submit their RPA information such as serial number, make, model, payloads etc. under current operation. If CASA already has the drone information, it begs the question of why do they now need to charge an extra $160.00 per year per drone?

Excluded Category Sub (2KG) Class

What hurts more is that ReOC holders are treated within the same playing field as the Excluded Category commercial operators. Excluded Category (Sub 2KG) will also need to pay $160 per drone per year, noting they have no obligation to be trained, no requirement for RePL, no certification or insurance requirements to comply and no ISO/business standards. In fact, as it stands I would recommend new commercial drone operators to stay in the Excluded Sub 2KG class. Flying in the Excluded class seems a lot cheaper than running a ReOC operation. * Note * Fly at your own risk of course.

Safety should be the number one priority, not revenue

The $160 fee per drone per year will close down small drone operators, meaning they may retreat into the Excluded 2KG class. Despite CASA already mandating drone registration effective 1st July 2019, we commercial drone operators believe drone registration should not be used as a revenue raiser. We are fed up of companies exploiting commercial operators by charging fees that add no real value. Drone safety and education should be the number one priority when registering and governing drones within Australia.

Got Comments or opinions on drone registration?

Do you intend to increase your drone prices to cover the cost of drone registration? If you do maybe show this article to your customer. Hopefully, they will understand the need to increase prices to stay afloat.

Please add to this post. I would love to hear your opinion on this matter. Is it just me rambling and complaining or do other commercial drone operators feel the same?

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